India Insight

Book Talk – Navtej Sarna on India’s Jerusalem connection

Indian diplomat Navtej Sarna‘s latest book pieces together the history of an Indian “hospice” in Jerusalem. Spread over seven thousand square metres near the Dome of the Rock, the property has its origins in a visit by Sufi saint Baba Farid about 800 years ago.

sarnacovernewFarid, a pioneer of the Punjabi literary tradition, supposedly meditated for 40 days in an underground chamber in Jerusalem. His presence brought followers to this site and it “expanded through the centuries as a place for Indian pilgrims to stay.”

Thus begins the journey of “Indians at Herod’s Gate – A Jerusalem Tale“, a travelogue through the crowded, narrow lanes of the ancient sacred city.

It is also the story of the retreat’s caretakers, the Ansaris, who have their roots in Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, India. In 1924, Sheikh Nazir Hasan Ansari, the son of a police inspector, left his dusty village in northern India for Jerusalem. Around 45 years old then, he was deputised by leaders of the Khilafat Movement to look after the hospice.

As Sarna “unpeels” a little Indian corner in Jerusalem, the story intertwines the histories of this large family and the hospice, including the Israeli shelling of 1967 that claimed the lives of three Ansaris.

from FaithWorld:

Sikh temple project sparks dispute over copying holy sites

golden-temple (Photo: Sikhs pray at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, 17 Sept 2001/Rajesh Bhambi)

Are some holy sites so holy or so unique that they shouldn't be copied? Should monuments like the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican or the Western Wall in Jerusalem have a kind of copyright so nobody can replicate them elsewhere?

It seems unlikely that believers of any faith would undertake such a project, if for no other reason that most holy sites are quite complex, with artwork that would be very expensive to reproduce. But some Sikhs in India are building what looks like a copy of the Golden Temple, their religion's holiest shrine, in Sangrur, 265 miles (427 km) southeast of the temple in Amritsar. The project has sparked off a debate in the Sikh community and the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), which maintains gurdwaras in India's Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh states, has protested against it and called on the religion's five high priests to intervene. The Sikhs building the new gurdwara deny they're copying the famous temple, simply giving a facelift to their dilapidated gurdwara.

As Mumbai's DNA daily put it: "Imitation is sometimes not the most acceptable form of flattery."

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